Semien’s 40th homer lifts Blue Jays back into playoff spot
Marcus Semien became the fifth second baseman to hit 40 home runs in a season, and the Toronto Blue Jays moved back into a playoff position by beating the Minnesota Twins 6-2 Saturday.
Teoscar Hernández hit a three-run homer, and Bo Bichette had three hits and two RBIs as the Blue Jays rebounded from a 7-3 loss and improved to a big league-best 14-3 in September.
Toronto (83-65) moved a half-game ahead of the New York Yankees (83-66) for the second AL wild-card berth, one game behind Boston (85-65). The Blue Jays haven’t lost back-to-back games since defeats to the White Sox on Aug. 26 and Detroit the following day.
“It’s the confidence we have right now,” Hernández said. “We trust in each other.”
Steven Matz (13-7) won his fourth straight decision, allowing two runs and three hits in 5 2/3 innings.
“Today I had the curveball going, so I just used it a lot,” Matz said. “They weren’t doing any damage on it.”
Matz is 4-0 with a 2.72 ERA in his past seven starts.
“He’s been one of our best starters,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “That’s saying a lot, because the other guys are doing really well, too.”
Toronto had lost its eight previous home games against the Twins since Aug. 26, 2017.
Bailey Ober (2-3) retired his first eight batters and nine of 10 before Semien’s leadoff homer in the fourth. Semien joined ??Rogers Hornsby, Davey Johnson, Ryne Sandberg, and Brian Dozier as the only second basemen to hit 40 home runs in a season.
Montoyo said he asked to put the blue blazer the Blue Jays use to celebrate home runs on Semien’s shoulders when the All-Star infielder returned to the dugout after his milestone drive.
“I told him ‘Congratulations,’ because to be a second baseman and have the season that he’s had already, 40 home runs, that’s not easy to do,” Montoyo said. “I’m proud of him, man. He’s been great to us.”
Four of Semien’s homers have come in his 21 appearances at shortstop.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. followed with a walk, Bichette singled and Hernández hit his 28th homer, a drive into the left-field bullpen.
Despite missing three weeks in April because of COVID-19, Hernández leads the Blue Jays with 106 RBIs.
“That tells you everything about Teoscar,” Montoyo said.
Ober allowed four runs and four hits in four innings, snapping a 10-start streak in which he allowed no more than three earned runs per outing.
Minnesota’s Josh Donaldson homered against his former team for the second straight game, hitting a two-run shot off Matz in the first. Donaldson’s homer was his 24th.
Trevor Richards retired Brent Rooker to strand runners at the corners in the sixth. Tim Mayza worked 1 1/3 innings, Adam Cimber got two outs in the eighth and Jordan Romano finished.
Blue Jays: Toronto placed RHP Joakim Soria on the family medical emergency list and recalled RHP Anthony Castro from Triple-A Buffalo.
Twins: Minnesota placed OF Rob Refsnyder (right elbow) on the 10-day injured list and selected INF Drew Maggi from Triple-A St. Paul. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Twins transferred LHP Taylor Rogers to the 60-day IL.
After 11 seasons and 1,044 minor league games, the 32-year-old Maggi reached the big leagues for the first time. He was teammates with Jason Kipnis and Mike Leake at Arizona State,
“It means everything to me,” Maggi said. “I thought my career was over 20 times.”
Semien and Guerrero (46 homers) are the fourth pair of Toronto teammates to hit 40 home runs in a season. The last to do it were Donaldson and Jose Bautista in 2015.
Bichette leads the majors with 52 multi-hit games this season.
Blue Jays RHP José Berríos (11-8, 3.43) starts against his former team for the first time in Sunday’s series finale. Drafted by Minnesota in 2012, Berríos went 55-43 over six seasons with the Twins before being traded to Toronto in June.